On a delegation with the Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East, Iain McNicol visited East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The visit included meetings with members of the Palestinian Authority, sister party Fatah, community leaders, a Palestinian Member of the Knesset and visits to a number of areas in the West Bank.
As part of the trip Iain McNicol met with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and discussed a number of issues, including Labour party support for recognition of a Palestinian state and continued concern over the issue of illegal settlements. In a number of other meetings Iain McNicol met further representatives from the PA and members of Fatah, Labours sister party raising concerns about the continued occupation as it enters the 50th year, the 10th anniversary of the Gaza siege and the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.
B’Tselem led a visit around East Jerusalem, highlighting the areas of annexation and occupation and the challenges facing the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. Overlooking a hilltop, Sarit Michaeli of B’Tselem pointed out the growth of settlements and the development of settlement roads which were separating the Palestinian community from areas of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Zakaria Odeh, a leading Palestinian community activist from East Jerusalem led a further visit to Sheikh Jarrah where Iain McNicol witnessed first-hand the illegal occupation of Palestinian homes that had been taken over by settlers.
The issue of settlements came up in a number of meetings, where Iain McNicol noted that over 20 Labour MPs had spoken at a debate on illegal settlements in the House of Commons calling for the UK government to take further action. He reiterated the Labour party’s concern over Israel’s illegal settlement activity.
The Labour party and Fatah have been working to strengthen relationships over recent years and further cooperation at meetings in Ramallah was agreed upon. In meetings with Fatah women and Fatah youth there were commitments made to strengthen the relationship between the two parties further and work together in the future.